During 2019, TCR Talk will be following the progress of the various British drivers racing in TCR Series abroad. We continue this series with Matt Howson, who is competing in the 2019 TCR Japan Touring Car Series for KCMG Honda…
The 2019 TCR Japan Touring Car Series continued its maiden season of competition, with the final weekend of action taking place at Suzuka, as part of the FIA WTCR Weekend. Here is the TCR Talk roundup of Matt’s performance at the Suzuka International Circuit, where race one and race two took place on Saturday…
Race One at Suzuka…
Yu Kanamaru and Matthew Howson made a 1-2 for Honda in TCR Japan’s first race at Suzuka. By clinching his fourth victory of the season, Kanamaru regained the lead in the overall standings, while the second place meant that Howson was crowned champion in the Saturday Series.
Their main competitor, Takeshi Matsumoto did not finish after he was involved in a collision with fellow Volkswagen driver Shogo Mitsuyama three laps before the end.
At the start, pole sitter Kanamaru kept Howson at bay into turn one, then Shuji Maejima passed Matsumoto for third, however during the first lap, the Alfa driver lost two places to Matsumoto and Mitsuyama.
At the end of lap four, Masayuki Ueda’s Audi went off before the chicane and the safety car was deployed. When racing resumed, with five minutes to go, Kanamaru kept his lead from Howson, Matsumoto, Mitsuyama, Maejima and ‘Hirobon’.
Positions didn’t change until lap nine when the top four had a close fight that ended with the two Volkswagen Golf cars of Matsumoto and Mitsuyama making contact. They both retired, while Hirobon benefited from the situation and overtook Maejima for P3. However, the latter was able to retake the position and finished third behind Kanamau and Howson.
Race Two at Suzuka…
Matthew Howson won the TCR Japan’s second race in Suzuka and in the process the overall TCR Japan title as Takeshi Matsumoto secured the Sunday series title.
The key moment of the race was the incident between Yu Kanamaru and Shuji Maejima that eliminated the former who was leading the race and the championship and resulted in a penalty for the second who dropped out of the points.
At the start, Kanamaru and Howson pipped pole-sitter Matsumoto and led the field into the first turn. During the first lap, Maejima overtook Hirobon for fourth, then Mitsuyama spun, Taniguchi spun behind him and Yoshiki crashed into Taniguchi’s car. The safety car was deployed by the second lap.
The race restarted on lap five with Maejima overtaking Matsumoto for third, however, as Jun Sato spun off and his car remained stranded in the gravel trap, the safety car was deployed again for another two laps.
Racing resumed for three final laps where Maejima overtook Howson for second at the end of the straight and after a couple of laps tried to pass Kanamaru for the lead. They made contact, Kanamaru spun off and later rejoined.
There were no further changes as Maejima crossed the line in first position, but he was given a 30-second penalty for the incident and dropped to eleventh in the final standings. Howson inherited the victory, while Matsumoto and Hirobon were promoted to second and third.
Howson reflects on Suzuka & his TCR Japan season
The Suzuka International Circuit was the location for the finale of the TCR Japan season and part of a very busy weekend that saw KCMG working with cars also in WTCR action. Howson closed off a successful season despite overcoming a late-season slump due to other competitors using the Honda as a target.
With TCR Japan one of two series to make its debut this year as part of the TCR Global Family, the Asian series can be hailed as a success. Howson has been part of a 20 car field all year in a country that has embraced the exciting spectacle of TCR and already has good prospects for next year.
The British driver hailed his success and also spoke more about his weekend during the championship finale.
“The final round of TCR Japan at Suzuka turned out to be one of the toughest yet most successful of the season,” explained Howson.
“Both races were door-banging dogfights and full of safety cars, so to come away with a second and a victory to seal the drivers’ title and help Honda win the manufacturers’ is just amazing. It’s also a testament to KCMG who improved the car to its best for this tough battle.”
“I’d like to extend huge thanks to my whole team, my engineers Adam and Matteo, JAS Motorsport, Honda and of course Paul Ip for having the vision to create this whole dream. After 11 years with KCMG, it’s amazing to win a championship together. We’ll enjoy this for a long time!”
TCR Talk sends its thanks to Matt Howson for being able to report on his season in the 2019 TCR Japan Touring Car Series and we look forward to his plans for 2020 being revealed.
I will be keeping things up to date on here as well as in The Official TCR Talk Group & The TCR UK Fans Group where members will also be sharing their thoughts and any news from The FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR), The TCR Europe Touring Car Series, The TCR UK Touring Car Championship and other Domestic & Regional TCR Series from around the world.
Until next time, all the best!